The famine is over! Six times a county ended a wait for All-Ireland hurling glory
LAST season, Galway bridged a 29-year gap to their last All-Ireland success. In the final they beat Waterford, who were themselves looking to end a 58-year wait to win the Liam MacCarthy again. With the Decies again in the mix and Limerick dark horses to take their first title since 1973. Here are six times a county ended an All-Ireland famine…
IT’S not just that Galway had gone nearly 30 years since their last All-Ireland, it’s that during that time they had lost six finals. Only Kilkenny lost as many during the same period, but they at least had 13 titles since the Tribe’s 1988 win to ease their pain a bit.
The two most recent defeats, both to the Cats, were probably the hardest to swallow. In 2012 they lost after a replay, while in 2015 they were in control at half-time, leading by three points, only to collapse after the break, scoring just 1-4 with their goal coming in injury-time.
Apart from an epic semi-final win over Tipperary, when Joe Canning scored a brilliant winner, no-one could get near the Tribe in 2017.
After winning the League they breezed past Dublin and Wexford in Leinster before that semi-final against Tipp.
Then, in the All-Ireland decider, with captain David Burke running midfield, they powered past Waterford.
There wasn’t a whole lot to suggest Wexford would follow Clare as breakthrough All-Ireland champions in 1996. While they had pushed eventual All-Ireland champions Kilkenny to a Leinster final replay in 1993, either side of that they were well beaten in provincial finals by the Cats and Offaly.
They finished sixth in Division Two in the 1994-’95 NHL, behind Kerry and Down and level on points with Meath.
Things did improve the following year and they managed to get themselves promoted and into the League semi-finals.
Still, Offaly, All-Ireland finalists the previous two years and champions in ’94, were expected to emerge from the east again. Instead Wexford powered to a 2-23 to 2-15 Leinster final win, inspired by captain Martin Storey, Tom Dempsey and Larry Murphy.
A semi-final win over Galway followed, but the Yellowbellies were still All-Ireland final underdogs against a Limerick in their second decider in three seasons.
However, despite having Eamonn Scallan sent off just before half-time, Wexford never trailed in the second half and won by two points.
The Banner maybe thought they had arrived when they knocked reigning champions Cork out of the Munster Championship in 1993. But they went on to a drubbing from Tipp in the final. Next year, same story, as they avenged the loss to Tipp but couldn’t handle Limerick in the decider. That winter Ger Loughnane took over as manager and transformed Clare into the fittest, hardest, best team in the country.
Boasting arguably the best defensive spine of their generation in goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald, full-back Brian Lohan and centre-back Seanie McMahon, Clare scored a dramatic win over Cork in their Munster opener. They went on to beat Limerick for their first provincial title since 1932, then Galway to reach the All-Ireland final.
There they faced reigning champions Offaly where a late goal from Eamonn Taaffe and a later 65 from captain Anthony Daly, who went on to deliver a speech for the ages, gave Clare their first Liam MacCarthy win since 1914.
IN 1987 Tipp finally won back the Munster title that was last theirs in 1971, when they also went on to win the All-Ireland. That was an almost unimaginable drought – by far the longest the Premier county has endured.
After beating Cork in an epic provincial final replay they lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Galway and the following season the Tribe beat them in the final. By 1989, with a Munster hat-trick secured, only ultimate glory would do.
When Antrim stunned Offaly in the first game of the Croke Park All-Ireland semi-final double bill, the stakes were raised for Galway and Tipp. With Galway smarting from the ban imposed on star Tony Keady for playing in America, Tipp won an ill-tempered game to set up a final against the Saffrons.
While Antrim started steadily enough, they missed some early chances and, after Declan Ryan’s shot for a point dropped into the net, Tipp started to run away with things, emerging 4-24 to 3-9 winners, with Nicky English scoring a record 2-12.
Offaly weren’t bridging a gap in 1981, they were finding a way to an undiscovered country. The Faithful county had only won their first Leinster title the previous year, but couldn’t add the All-Ireland as they fell in the semi-final to Galway.
However, the following spring they reached their first National League final – they lost to Cork – and carried that form into the summer.
Wins over Laois and Wexford saw them retain their provincial crown and move straight into the All-Ireland final. There they met Galway again, but this time Offaly had the Tribe’s measure and a late Johnny Flaherty goal proved crucial as they won 2-12 to 0-15.
A fortnight later midfielder Liam Currams was on the football team that lost the All-Ireland final to Kerry but the following year he would taste big ball glory on the side that denied the Kingdom their five in-in-a-row.
By 1966 it had only been 12 years since the Rebels had won the All-Ireland, but that qualifies as a lifetime on Leeside.
It’s not the biggest gap between wins – that was between 1903 and 1919 – but their drought in the late ’50s early ’60s was made to seem much longer by the fact their arch rivals Tipperary were blessed with arguably their greatest ever team, winning five titles since 1958 and four out of the five played before 1966.
Cork were destroyed by Tipp in the 1965 Munster final, losing by 17 points, after a 14-point defeat the year before and there were no expectations as a young side, backboned by a clutch of U21s including Sean Barry, Gerald Charlie and eventual Hurler of the Year Justin McCarthy carried Rebel hopes.
As it turned out, Cork didn’t have to deal with Tipp as Limerick beat them in the Munster quarter-final, and they took advantage, winning the province before beating Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final.